Telling My Story

Ocean SF Website
Andrew Lacenere and I met two years ago on a sail in September of 2015. During the many sailing trips that followed, Andrew and I dreamed into existence what would become Ocean SF.  Then, in July of 2016 my husband died of a sudden heart attack, leaving me in a predictable tailspin. 

My daughter’s needed me desperately, and I couldn’t foresee leaving them for the long hours in the city that my background as a Director of Marketing required, nor could I imagine giving up the passion I had for the company I had just started.

The Sailing terminology I learned at the Olympic Circle Sailing Club taught me the terminology I needed, and I decided to stay the course. 

I committed myself 100% to Ocean SF, and stayed the course I had previously set. I had worked for many startups in the past, and I knew what would be required of me, and that it would be far from easy. It would take everything I had to give, and then some, but if I had to work around the clock at least I would be close to home, and as my own boss, I could prioritize my time. 

Today, I attended a summit for entrepreneurs in SF as the guest of UBS, and there I met Julia Hartz, co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite. Among other things, Julia raised 200 Million in capital for a recent acquisition. Smart, funny, beautiful, and inspiring. What a difference a year makes. 
Grateful. 

Love and blessings to all. 

Suddenly It All Changes

Claremont Hotel, Berkeley, California

I’ve been praying for peace and tranquility for so long that it is a reflex. I do it in the car at the red lights, while brushing my teeth, or even just rushing down the stairs on my way out the door in the morning.

On Friday, Paris came home for the weekend. I picked her up from the airport and when she got in the car, I said, “tell me everything.”

A few days before, I could feel a definite shift. The light was brighter and all of the edges had sharpened as if coming into focus. The colors had softened to blue, white and yellow.

The clouds hung gently over the San Francisco Bay as I exited the Caldecott Tunnel. I could see the view of Treasure Island and San Francisco magically laid out before me. I was on my way to meet my business partner for martinis and oysters at the Clairemont Hotel to celebrate our progress with Ocean SF.

We sat outside in the warm sunshine and looked toward to city. The sky was a perfect cerulean blue, and everything had a freshness like I had never seen before. Andrew, wore a blue and white striped shirt and I could see the reflection of myself in his mirrored sunglasses. It was one of those rare moments in life where you feel perfectly content as if everything lay in front of you, and nothing behind.

I have become an observer in my own life over the past year. I like to watch how things unfold. Truthfully, I am not always calm while doing this, and people close to me have witnessed some of the moments when I am out of sorts with my circumstances, but it’s a practice to allow change and not resist it.

When we got home from the airport, Paris sat on the kitchen counter and talked as I made dinner. She is someone who is excited about ideas and exudes passion as she speaks. She is a whirl of philosophies, personalities, topics and opinions. As I watched her face, I could see she is maturing. Her eyes are a deeper blue, and her smile is a smile beneath a smile, that of a young woman, and no longer of a girl.

Change can be excruciatingly slow. Then, one day you are there.

In my 20’s I was stunned and amazed to be sitting on a train in England wearing a herringbone coat traveling toward my first economics class at the University of London. It took ten months to apply, and work toward that goal, but I eventually arrived, and the long rain soaked days at Oregon State University became just a memory.

When Paris was home, we had a dozen people for dinner. We sat in our formal dining room among friends and candle light, everyone was laughing.  It felt as if it had always been this way.

Love and blessings to all.

Fear Is The Killer of Love

Fear is the killer of love. I’ve known this for a long time, although staying open to love without fear feels like playing the goalie in a game of ice hockey without any protective gear.

The same is true in business. I’ve been working very hard to bring Ocean SF to fruition. I’ve invested my time, money and heart. Along the way, I’ve tapped some of the best players from my past and have put together a remarkable team.  

We are making some beautiful things, not just for our product line, but from an environmental and socially responsible standpoint, we truly are building something very unique, and creating value not simply in what we produce and sell, but in driving our vision for environmentally conscious businesses in general. 

Our sustainable mission and love for the ocean is part of  everything we do and represent. It is the reason why we do what we do. 

Now that we are long past the point of no return, I am aware of my fear of letting go and allowing the changes that are necessary for a business to thrive and grow. 

A direction must be chosen and committed to, and faith and trust in the unknown is no longer simply an ideal, but a necessity. 

Yesterday, I had back to back meetings, I am hiring people to lay the financial future of the company, as we get in position to take money from investors. Andrew and I can no longer alone, do all of the work required, in every aspect of the business. 

To grow the business we need help, and this means trusting other people, committing to a course and executing regardless of our reservations. We understand that we can endlessly weigh the consequences of each decision, but ultimately we must decide, and each decision at this point, has enormous potential to influence our success and future.

During my morning meeting, as I was listening to my financial adviser talk about venture capital, I was nervously tipping the legs of my chair. My mother always warned me that one day, I would break the chair, but it’s a bad habit of mine, that I’ve not been able to break. Predictably, the chair gave way, and I literally fell onto the floor.  This is not something I’ll soon forget. 

I was unharmed, but afterward, I spent time contemplating the significance of this event. 

In the end, I decided to be fearless. I’ll stay calm, make wise choices, trust myself, and other people. I will remain open to change and be willing to take the risks inherent in moving toward my goals and dreams. This is of course, an evolution of sorts, to find my courage and consistently and confidently act on it. 

Sometimes, our fear is what hurts us the most.  

Lesson learned. 

Love and blessings to all. 

Ojai & Lemon Groves

My Meyer Lemon Tree, Moraga, California
When I was younger, I spent a good deal of time in the Ojai Valley, just outside of Santa Barbara, California. My college boyfriend was from there, and I dreamed of living, one day among the lemon groves. 

My lemon grove dreams were shattered when my then boyfriend cheated on me while I was representing Switzerland at Model United Nations in Sacramento. It’s no accident that this was the country I would represent. I abhor conflict of any kind, I’m protective of myself, and I’ve been known to be unforgiving. So, after the cheating incident, the college boyfriend and I were done for good.

I spent a few vacations in Santa Barbara with my late husband and children when they were very small, and later we spent a week at the beautiful Ojai Valley Resort & Spa one Spring Break.

During these visits, the idea that I could someday retire to a place like this, where I would have a lemon grove, a white farm house, and a clothes line was born. 

As I go through the stresses of my daily life, I think about this farm house, and the simple life I will one day have. 

When I wake up in the middle of the night and the list of things that I have to do the next day to chase my current dreams, and secure venture capital for Ocean SF, consumes me with anxiety, I am comforted in knowing that whatever happens between now, and my days in the lemon grove, really don’t matter.  

Someday, I will be there, or somewhere like that, and all of this will feel like a dream.

Until then, I will never give up and I will never back down. I will continue to live in the present, outside my comfort zone, not knowing exactly what will happen next, but knowing it will all be good.

Love and blessings.

The Past, the Recent Past & the Future 

San Francisco Bay

I’ve spent a great deal of time mapping out the events of the past. For a long time, I wanted to find the exact point in time, even the exact moment, when things took a turn for the worst, as if I personally could go back in time, and reverse the damage to create a better outcome. 

Well, there is no exact moment to find, and if I could find it, I couldn’t do anything about it, as that is now the past, so I’ve reconciled myself to taking the gifts of those moments with me as I move into my future, and leaving the rest behind. 

As much as I wanted to separate myself from the past, for the last few months there has been an echo, and it made me feel like nothing I did could ever truly erase the memories, both good and bad of what went before.  Now, I can even feel that fading, as my new life takes shape and my hopes, dreams and plans begin to materialize. As I become much more interested and invested in the future, even the recent past becomes a series of events not worth holding onto, or paying attention to.

Recently, I’ve forced myself to slow down. I sleep more, and I’m genuinely conscious of my own well being, and need to rest. I know I will need my strength as our company Ocean SF takes off and the demands placed on my time and energy increase.

This is that quiet place between the future and the past, or the calm before the storm.

Love and blessings. 

Preparation & Determination

San Francisco Bay
Over the weekend, I was on the Race Committee for the Express 37 Nationals. 

I started doing Race Committee when my friend, Tom Nemeth volunteered me last summer for the Santa Cruz 27 Nationals, and it’s proven addictive. 

I’ve crewed a few races, but prefer the vantage point and perspective, of the Race Committee boat. I love to see firsthand the passion and dermination exhibited by each crew and boat as they compete. 

The Race Committee boat is typically comfortable and well stocked, and the company excellent. There is plenty of time to socialize, and I am typically surrounded by past Commadores and sailors with much experience and many crossings, and the stories to match.

My job is usually to check in the sailboats before each race, because of this I am able to learn their names and can identify each one at a distance by the color of the boat and sails.  

The sailboats come sometimes just feet from the Race Committee boat, and their skill in maneuvering such a large craft with so many variables and people elegantly balanced on deck is just short of miraculous. It’s evident that it’s taken years of training and experience on the water to be able to do this. The tacticians who compete at this level are highly skilled. Being comparatively new to sailing, it took some getting used to, but now I am relaxed and confident as the boats glide inches from our boat and each other as they check in, and get in the most advantageous position for the start of each race. 

We were on a Nordic Tug boat, which alone was a novelty, the races however, were exciting, and unpredictable with several false starts and a few postponements. There were several upsets, and everyone was surprised when our BYC home boat, Stewball failed to win race 6, however, the competition was fierce, and a wonderful time was had by all as the winds were perfect for a yacht race. 

Expeditious, and skipper Bartz Schneider, of San Francisco Yacht Club, won the regatta, but it was very close.

I was happy to see several more women sailors then usual, and I made a few new friends, and deepened ties with the people I already knew. 

As I sat on the upper deck in the sunshine watching the sailboats come in, I realized, I am living the future I had so desperately wished and planned for these many months with the same spirit of preparation and determination. 

Love and blessings to all. 

Purpose, Passion & The Express 37 Nationals

Race 5, Express 37 Nationals

Finding your purpose is no easy task. Often, people ask me how I found my passion for making Sailing Apparel, or even just sailing in general, and I have to say, it wasn’t easy. 

I always knew I was a writer, this was not something I needed to become, it’s what I’ve  always been. I was told throughout high school and college how gifted I was in this area, but I’m very outgoing, so I could never imagine myself sitting alone and just writing. And also, I loved fashion, and I absolutely love to paint. 

Once, when I was still raising my family, a close friend of mine asked, “What are you going to do next? you have such varied talents.” It was true, having many interests, and choosing one was a major challenge that held me back for a long time. 

When I was in high school, I painted a photograph from an ad in Vogue Magazine. At the time, I had many offers to model, and I did model often, but I wanted to prove my intellect instead, so this line of work didn’t interest me at all. But, I adored Vogue and had a magazine subscription. It influenced me so much, that I wore Joy perfume, and a Cartier watch for many years. 

Recently, I pulled out this painting to show my daughter, and I left it sitting on an easel in my dining room. During a strategy meeting at my home, for Ocean SF, I was sitting across from this painting, and thought – all of this makes perfect sense. My love of fashion, and the outdoors, combined with my marketing background, and my writing ability; all of these go together and have placed me here. 

I always wanted to sail. I started in Portland on the Willamette River in my very early 20’s, then I moved to SF, where I would drive across the Bridges and wish I could be on one of the beautiful sail boats below, but I fell in love with a golfer, and we did that instead. 

As my family grew, I remembered this dream, and when I had more time, I fit a class into my busy schedule. I can’t say that I knew right away, the first days I was very sea sick, but I followed the bread crumbs of joy, and didn’t give up.

Today, I have a boat in slip 212 at Berkeley Marina, and the Berkeley Yacht Club is my second home. I’m on Race Committee, which means I hoist the flags, when the whistle blows, to start the Yacht races. 

Now, it all feels pretty obvious, I’ll design clothes, and write every morning, I’ll paint when I have the time, and I’ll sail and ski. It’s amazing it took so long to see this.

I can’t tell you how lucky I feel. 

Find the thing you love that makes your heart pound, and do that. 

Love and blessings to all. 

The Evolution Is Now 


Dear Friends,

Please join me in launching our company OCEAN SF. Our signature jacket is not just a product, but an evolution. This jacket replaces your current mid layer polyester fleece with a warm, sustainable, all natural technical garment that will be the last mid layer jacket you will ever buy.  

Every time a polyester fleece jacket is washed up to 250,000 plastic microfibers shed into our water system. Much of this does not get filtered by municipal water utilities and ends up in both the ocean and even our drinking water!  

OCEAN SF is a performance sailing apparel company, and is focused on using natural fibers, especially Merino Wool, and state of the art fabric milling technologies to create adventure gear with a higher calling. Their real aim is to stop the plastic pollution that comes from clothing, and they are holding no bars.

For centuries sailors have looked to wool to keep them warm even when they get wet. Now OCEAN SF has combined the material benefits of wool with state-of-the-art fabric milling technologies. Our textiles themselves are very sophisticated. We’ve been able to weave and knit multiple textures into a single piece of cloth. The interior side is meant to trap air between the garment and user’s skin to keep them warm, the outside is meant to be a bit more rugged and resilient.

We believe that our jackets couldn’t come at a better time because it has recently been determined that the standard “polyester fleece” jacket pollutes up to 250,000 plastic microfibers into our water system every time it is washed. Recent studies conclude that not only does the deep ocean contain a great deal of plastic microfiber pollution BUT ALSO that 94% of tested drinking water in the US contains plastic microfibers. We’re literally drinking our plastic clothes. We believe that natural fibers, especially our high-performance, highly technical merino wool garments can make a huge difference in the quest to shift this paradigm. We aim to prove the performance of merino wool, and in so doing we hope to catalyze a major shift away from polyester garments.

Join us in sharing our vision of wearing natural fabrics in a natural world. We currently have our cotton T-shirts and signature jackets for sale on our website at OCEAN SF.

Our signature jacket:

Custom Milled Luxurious Merino Wool

  • Made in California
  • Superior Design
  • Beautiful Fit

“My Ocean SF jacket is the only jacket I ever wear. It’s warm, comfortable and I love the long zippered sleeves!” – Tom Dryja, Sailing Instructor, OCSC, Berkeley, CA 

Our wool fabric is being milled now, and we will start sewing soon. Quantities are limited, so order now at OCEAN SF for delivery in late 2017.

Thank you to everyone for your love and support as we have built and launched this company. We look forward to bringing you beautiful, sustainable, and the most loved adventure clothing in the world.

Love and Blessings to all.

Sydney 

Sydney Ann Chaney-Thomas

Aligning Passion With Vision

Me and sailing instructor Tom Dryja

Even though, I teach business marketing to graduate students, this is not that sort of post. After my husband died, I desperately searched for anything and everything that could bring me peace and happiness.

I’ve seen it before, family members who use alcohol to sooth painful feelings. I’m not going to lie. I drank a fair amount of gin, however, what I found to be the best antidote to pain, by far, is devotion to, and engagement in, meaningful work.

For example; I love writing this blog. It’s allowed me the use of talents I had developed over many years of writing as a business analyst, technical writer, marketing director, communications manager, and more.

Yes, writing is a passion. But, work must have a broader meaning and purpose to provide happiness.

Over 30,000 people read my blog now. I do no advertising or promotion. I have readers from all over the world, including places like Nigeria, Malta, New Caledonia, and so on, in a total of 64 countries.

This isn’t something I expected when I wrote my first post on grief in August of 2016. But, as I began, and discovered how much it helped me, while helping other people in such an unexpected myriad of ways, I continued.  Now, it is simply part of my life’s work, like making sailing clothes, or raising children.

When I was little, I always knew I would be a writer, I started writing in a journal daily at 12. It’s a passion, but how to align a passion with the vision we have for our life?

I could not write a novel like my late husband asked me to. I could tap out an interesting short story and that was all.

For work, I could write detailed memos, user guides, any type of collateral, training programs, press releases, systems manuals, marketing updates, business articles, and later website pages and electronic newsletters.

When I worked in the Financial District of San Francisco, in my twenties, that was my passion. I loved my expensive wool suits, silk blouses, and heels. I loved living in the city and kicking around all the interesting neighborhoods on the weekends.

Later, working South of Market Street, for several start ups was my passion. I wore black Mary Jane flats, and flared jeans, and smoked cigarettes in the ally with the French founders from Google.

I didn’t find this work particularly meaningful, but it paid well.

After years of consulting work, and raising children, I craved action. I no longer wished to sit behind a desk, no matter how lucrative. I like to ski, or hike winding trails, or more recently sail.

Two years ago, I was out sailing with my sailing instructor, Tom Dryja, and Andrew Lacenere. I had just met Andrew, so Tom mentioned that Andrew was a clothing designer.  I remember this moment, in the same way, we remember all important events, and after Andrew explained his vision to me, I told him I would help him.

Today, apart from writing this blog, there is nothing I enjoy more than making clothes with Andrew, and our pattern maker, Emma Garrison.

It’s been a slow process, but I’ve been able to align my passion for writing, with my passion for quality clothing, with my passion for the outdoors, and create my vision of a meaningful life.

It’s not something I could have planned, and I often wonder how it will all turn out, but, I do know, it will turn out well in the end, because I truly love what I’m doing. And, I wouldn’t have missed one single moment of any of it.

Love and blessings to all.

Andrew & Tom on the J105, San Francisco Bay
Lara, Tom & Andrew

Have Better Cards

The secret to winning at poker and at anything in life is to have better cards. Since, I’ve been left to my own devises unexpectedly to support my children and myself without warning, I think a great deal about things like increasing my market share, and making my adventure clothing company Ocean SF attractive to investors, while leveraging my assets, and managing my resources.  

The truth is the best way to win at any card game is to have better cards than the other players, this is of course a metaphor for what I am trying to do, and to me it means that I must have a better product than my competitors, and I’ve worked hard to make sure that I do, our technical mid layer jacket, is by far the best on the market.

My mother used to warn me to play my cards right. At the time, I didn’t really understand this, but now I do. 

Here are some tips for life and card games:

  • Come prepared 
  • Stay calm
  • Games are about taking risks, don’t take too many risks, but if you play too conservatively you will lose 
  • Other players can bluff, but the person with the better hand always wins

Love and blessings.